A toddler who accidentally ingested liquid nicotine may be the country's first fatality as a result of overdose from a highly toxic ingredient used in electronic cigarettes.
Just after 4 p.m. on Dec. 9, police officers were called to the one-year-old boy's home in Fort Plain, New York after he was found unresponsive. Although paramedics attempted to revive the baby and an ambulance brought him to the Little Falls Hospital, he was pronounced dead at 5:53 p.m.
It isn't yet clear what led to the tragic incident, but the boy's case has raised concerns amid the rising popularity of e-cigarettes, with many users seeing vaping as a safer alternative to smoking.
Experts pointed out the dangers posed by e-cigarettes at home. Liquid nicotine, a supplement of e-cigarette, needs to be diluted before it is used. The substance can be very toxic; a seemingly small amount can be deadly for a child.
One teaspoon of liquid nicotine can be fatal for young children, and smaller amounts can cause vomiting, decreased blood pressure, convulsion and loss of ability to breathe, which could require trips to a hospital's emergency department.
Liquid nicotine, which comes in a variety of flavors such as gummy bear and cotton candy, can attract little children because they often come in colorful packaging and have an attractive smell, but the containers are not required to be childproof.
A police officer said that in the Fort Plain incident, the child, whose name was withheld, swallowed liquid nicotine from a glass bottle that did not have a childproof cap.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has yet to sign a bill passed by the state legislature requiring liquid nicotine be placed in child-resistant packaging.
While the incident could be the first death caused by liquid nicotine ingestion, a spike in injuries caused by exposure to the toxic substance has already been observed.
The American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC) said that the number of these dangerous exposures has increased from 1,543 last year to 3,638 as of Nov. 30 this year. Over half of these cases involved children younger than six years old.
In 2011, there were only 271 exposures and the significant increase can be attributed to the growing popularity of vaping. In response to the child's death, the AAPCC called for measures that could reduce the odds of the liquid nicotine poisoning happening again.
"AAPCC supports federal legislation to mandate the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission require child-proof packaging for liquid nicotine sold to consumers in light of the possible death of a 1-year-old Fort Plain, New York, boy," the AAPCC stated.